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Ambaṭṭha

1. Ambaṭṭha.– (usually called Ambaṭṭha-māṇava). A brahmin youth of the Ambaṭṭha clan who lived with his teacher, Pokkharasāti, at Ukkaṭṭhā. He was learned in the three Vedas and the correlated branches of knowledge, including the Lokāyata, as recorded in the Ambaṭṭha Sutta (D.i.87 ff). Once, at the request of his teacher, he visited the Buddha in the Icchānaṅgala wood and seems to have opened his conversation by reviling the Sākyā and calling them menials. It appears that Ambaṭṭha had once gone on some business of Pokkharasāti’s to Kapilavatthu, to the Mote Hall of the Sākyā, and had been insulted there (D.i.91).

Asked by the Buddha to what family he belonged, Ambaṭṭha replied that he came of the Kaṇhāyana-gotta; thereupon the Buddha traced the family back to its ancestor, who had been the offspring of a slave girl of Okkāka, named Disā. The child had been able to talk as soon as he was born and, because of this devilish trait, had been called Kaṇha (devil), hence the family name. Kaṇha later became a mighty seer and married Maddarūpī, daughter of Okkāka (D.i.96‑7).

Ambaṭṭha makes no remonstrance against this genealogy and, under pressure, accepts it as true. This gives the Buddha an opportunity of teaching on the futility of feeling vanity regarding one’s caste and on the worth of morality and conduct.

At the end of the discourse the Buddha walked up and down outside his chamber so that Ambaṭṭha might see on his body the thirty-two signs of a great man. Ambaṭṭha goes back to Pokkharasāti and reports the whole interview. Pokkharasāti is greatly incensed, abuses Ambaṭṭha and kicks him. Later Pokkharasāti goes himself to the Buddha and invites him for a meal. At the end of the meal the Buddha instructs him in his Doctrine and is accepted as the Teacher both of Pokkharasāti himself and of his followers and dependants at Ukkaṭṭhā. Pokkharasāti himself becomes a Stream-winner (DA.i.278).

We are not told that Ambaṭṭha became a follower of the Buddha. Buddhaghosa says (DA.i.274) that the Buddha knew that Ambaṭṭha would not profit by his discourse in his present life (iminā attabhāvena magga-pātubhāvo natthi), and that therefore a discourse with the idea of converting him would only have meant spending unnecessary time. Ambaṭṭha himself only visited the Buddha on account of his interest in physiognomy. According to Buddhaghosa the idea of the Buddha in teaching the Ambaṭṭha Sutta at such length was that it might be repeated to Pokkharasāti.

It is conjectured that the Ambaṭṭha, who is identified with Kāvinda, one of the counsellors of King Vedeha, in the Umaṅga Jātaka (J.vi.478), probably refers to the Ambaṭṭha of this sutta.

2. Ambaṭṭha.– A king of old, at whose court Rāhulamātā in one of her former lives had been a handmaid. In that life she had given alms to a holy man and, as a result, became in her next birth consort of the King of Bārāṇasī. J.iii.413‑14.

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